Over 200 million people in rural China have poor vision, but few have access to quality vision care services or wear properly prescribed eyeglasses. In 2012-13, REAP undertook the largest vision care study ever conducted in rural China to tackle the problem.
By screening nearly 20,000 fourth and fifth graders in rural China, we determined that 1 in 4 rural children have uncorrected vision problems and that the poorer their eyesight, the lower their academic performance. We also found children with more severe vision problems suffered disproportionately from high anxiety and emotional difficulties. We are now evaluating different vision care delivery strategies to measure the impact of eyeglasses uptake on school performance—in all providing nearly 4,000 pairs of new eyeglasses to nearsighted children. Read the policy brief summarizing our results and recommendations here.
In April, 2013, the REAP team conducted a survey of rural Chinese babies, testing them for international growth benchmarks, anemia, and cognitive and mental development. We found that an astonishing 55% of babies in China's villages are anemic - a condition that, if uncorrected, can have serious impacts on cognitive ability, school performance, and even lifetime earnings. Since only around 20% of babies are stunted or wasted, we further believe that this is a micronutrient problem - the babies are getting enough calories, but not enough vitamins and nutrients. Through our survey, the REAP team also learned that 35% of babies suffer from significant cognitive delays, and 57% suffer from significant motor delays. We have just submitted a new policy brief to the State Council reporting these findings.
Nutritious School Lunch
In 2012, partially as a result of REAP's extensive work showing high rates of undernutrition among rural Chinese primary school students, the Chinese government launched a 22 billion USD national school lunch program to provide all rural primary students with a free and nutritious lunch. Subsequent REAP research, however, has shown that this new school lunch policy is only providing a free lunch, not a nutritious one. We submitted a new policy brief outlining the implementation gaps in the new school lunch program, and the Chinese government responded by requesting that REAP submit a detailed policy plan for improving nutrition among rural schoolchildren. This new plan was just submitted in June, 2013.